I have watched intently the political kerfuffle regarding the Khan family’s speaking at the Democratic National Convention a couple of weeks ago and the attacks against them perpetrated by Donald Trump and his campaign surrogates. I am interested because I know people who have immigrated to the United States from the part of the world where the Khans originally lived, and they all wanted to live in the United States because this is the best place in the world.
That is, as I understand it, why the Khans came to the United States about 40 years ago. Since then, Mr. Khan finished his legal education at Harvard, the Khans became naturalized citizens, and their son Humayun joined the Army. Humayun Khan was killed in Iraq in 2004, and posthumously received the Bronze Star and a Purple Heart (www.cbsnews.com/news/what-you-need-to-know-about-khizr-khan-son-captain-humayun-khan/). During his speech, Mr. Khan asked Donald Trump whether he had even read the Constitution. This apparently irked Mr. Trump, and he responded as he has throughout his campaign: with cynicism, derision, and personal insult.
Until Mr. Khan was able to resume his remarks because of the crowd’s thunderous applause, I assumed he was referring to Mr. Trump’s statement a couple of weeks before saying that of course he had read the Constitution – all of it, including Articles XII and XX, among others; however, the Constitution has only seven articles.
I was wrong, however, about Mr. Khan’s allusion to the Constitution. He was talking about how “equal protection of the law” is not just a phrase, but a policy protecting everyone, even United States immigrants – including Muslims.
It is easy to paint a group of people with a broad brush, but to do so is to deny the idea behind the phrase “equal protection.” Additionally, denying anyone entry into this country because of his or her religion flies in the face of the First Amendment, which guarantees that Congress will make no law prohibiting people from practicing their religion.
Islam was a foreign concept to me when I went to Afghanistan four years ago. I knew little about it, and I knew no Muslim. Even now, though I have had real contact with the tenets of Islam and people of the Muslim faith, I confess that I still do not fully understand it. I know that Muslims in general do not fully understand Christianity, either, because after my friend Mirwais was here right before Easter, he said I would have to explain Easter to him.
What I do know is that the young people I worked with in Herat were looking for the things we all aspire to in life: the chance for hope, safety, and opportunity for themselves and their families. They all believed that the best place for those blessings is the United States of America.
They came here after risking their lives by having the temerity to work for America in Afghanistan. As I reported earlier this year, that danger was real; the Professor, who remained in Afghanistan, was killed for continuing to fight corruption in Herat’s government.
The young men I know intend no harm to this country; however, we cannot assume all immigrants have the same intentions. Some do harbor resentment for America’s policies in the world, so we require extensive background checks prior to anyone’s immigration. After undergoing – and passing – those checks, my friends brought their families to America, hoping that they, too, can enjoy what we take for granted on most days – the freedom to do what we want, to try to find happiness, to try to take advantage of opportunities that most people in the rest of the world do not have. And they count themselves lucky to be here. Mirwais has bought a house and plans to continue his medical education so that he can practice medicine here. Qadeer now has a job in Washington, and Sameer is working in Georgia.
Just like the Khans, whose son gave his life when America sent him to Iraq, my Muslim friends believe America is the best country on Earth. I do, too, because America still offers hope to all: “… I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
Deborah Mitchell is a a local attorney and a Municipal Court Judge.